NC JUSTICE NEWS: Defenders of Justice and More

September 22, 2009

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE: Justice Center Announces Honorees
Join the NC Justice Center for our 11th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards, Thursday, October 8 at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham. Our keynote speaker will be Bob Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause, one of the most active, effective, and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America.
This year's honorees are:
State Sen. Floyd McKissick, Jr. of Durham for being an effective champion of the disenfranchised, securing legislation that strengthens fair housing rights, and advocating fervently for the groundbreaking Racial Justice Act
State Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro for her passionate support of low-income families and communities on such issues as healthcare, quality education, the environment, campaign and ethics reform, consumer protection, workers’ rights, and the need for a fair tax system
Angaza Laughinghouse, president of NC Public Service Workers Union, Local 150, for his commitment to advocating for and organizing workers so they can secure better working conditions, fairer pay and the right to collective bargaining
AARP North Carolina for being an aggressive voice for the needs of older adults, particularly those struggling to make ends meet, and for securing numerous legislative victories that have improved the lives of its members and their families
John Alan Jones and Chris Olson of Martin & Jones for using their impressive legal skills to pursue cases that expand consumer protections so all North Carolinians can pursue effective recourse for unfair business practices
Please join us for this celebration of North Carolina's progressive champions. Buy Your Tickets Today!
CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Wendell Potter in Raleigh in Sept 29
Wendell Potter is one of the nation’s most prominent spokespersons for health care reform. He is a Senior Fellow on Health Care at the Center for Media and Democracy, a national nonprofit advocacy group. After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, last year he left his job at one of the nation's largest health insurers to try his hand at helping socially responsible organizations — including those advocating for meaningful health care reform. He has testified before Congress and appeared on a variety of national television and radio programs.
Crucial Conversation with Wendell Potter: An insider’s view of why our broken health care system is in desperate need of reform
When: TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2009 (registration @ 11:30 am, presentation begins at 12 noon and concludes by 1:30 pm)
Where: Marbles Kids Museum, 201 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Cost: $10 (includes a box lunch) Pre-registration required
HEALTH CARE: Small-Business Owners Want Reform
A recently released poll by the national advocacy group Small Business Majority reveals that the majority of small-business owners in North Carolina support current health reform ideas. They like the idea of having a choice between public and private optional health plans, and they support banning insurance companies from charging people or businesses more because of pre-existing health conditions. In short, they like the idea of responsible, middle-of-the-road reform.
This isn't a surprise to the staff of the Justice Center's NC Health Access Coalition. They held forums throughout the state with small-business owners, who have been telling them the same things.
HEALTH CARE: 1 in 6 North Carolinians Lack Health Coverage
Roughly one in six North Carolinians lacked health coverage in 2007 and 2008, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly 16 percent of North Carolinians were uninsured in 2007-2008, compared with 13.4 percent at the start of the decade (2000-2001).
The number of uninsured in North Carolina is likely to be much higher in 2009 because of accelerated job loss in the state resulting from the recession. "More and more North Carolinians are losing their jobs and their insurance," said Adam Searing, director of the Justice Center's NC Health Access Coalition. "We must ensure that these families have access to affordable, quality health coverage regardless of age or health status."
This year Congress should pass comprehensive health reform legislation that expands access to affordable, adequate health care; slows the growth in health care costs; and is paid for in a fair, responsible way.
STATE BUDGET: Per-person Spending Hits 13-Year Low
Per person, North Carolina's General Fund spending is at its lowest level point in 13 years, after adjusting for inflation and population changes. In fiscal year 2009-2010, per-person appropriations are down $346 since their peak in fiscal year 2007-08. This is why it was so important for state leaders to raise revenue during this just-ended legislative session. A close look at inflation-adjusted General Fund appropriations over the past few decades reveals that without the tax increases adopted this year, state appropriations per person would have dropped to its lowest level fiscal year 1992-93. Merely scaling back the increase in spending of the past few years would not have been sufficient to cover the budget shortfall.
State legislators deserve our thanks for recognizing the damage that would have been done by balancing the budget with cuts alone and for raising a responsible and reasonable amount of revenue.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: NC Families Need an Extension
Without an extension in unemployment benefits, around 12,000 North Carolina workers will lose their benefits by the end of this month, 30,000 by the end of December. "Extending unemployment benefits would help North Carolina workers feed their families during a serious recession and would stimulate the economy," said said Elaine Mejia, director of the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center. "This is the perfect time to take such a step, for economic recovery and for community well-being."
North Carolina's unemployment rate was 10.8 percent at the end of August, up more than 4 percentage points from a year ago. About 214,000 North Carolinians have lost jobs in the last year. Despite Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's assertion that the recession is over, the unemployment numbers show North Carolina workers still face a long struggle toward economic recovery.
This further highlights the need to preserve vital state programs that protect working families, such as unemployment benefits. "North Carolina's economy has been stumbling through a dark tunnel, and the new numbers show that we haven't emerged yet," Mejia said. "Because unemployment remains so high, it remains essential to help our state's families by maintaining necessary public investments."


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